Stereo receiver vs. Home Theater receiver


Bronze Member
Username: Blueindian

Post Number: 11
Registered: Jan-16
Pardon my ignorance but can someone please explain the difference between a Stereo Receiver and a Home Theater Receiver. Can a Home Theater Receiver be used in place of a Stereo Receiver?

Platinum Member
Username: Jan_b_vigne

Dallas, TX

Post Number: 18166
Registered: May-04

"Stereo" is two channels only. It can be used with mono (one channel) sources but will play back over two speakers (both speakers will contain identical information) and it can never be more than two channels.

Home theatre systems typically have multiple speakers, anywhere from 5 to 7 (occasionally more) "main" speakers plus a subwoofer with its own dedicated channel.

Home theatre receivers have the connections and circuits which are used to process both the video signal and the surround sound signals.

Not everyone uses the video circuits of a home theatre receiver though most people buying a home theatre receiver intend to use it for watching video sources while listening to the soundtrack in surround sound. Therefore, the multiple channels for surround are rather important for any home theatre usage.

You can use a HT receiver for simple music use and you can reduce its output to only stereo (two channel) output. You'd be paying for a lot of things you would never use however and that doesn't seem to make sense.

You can forget about having surround sound and run your video source's audio signals through a two channel stereo receiver. Most video components have the ability to reduce the multiple channels down to stereo by "folding" them into one another.

Once again, you'd be paying for more than what you are using in your other video components by only using two of the available channels.

Once you have a component in you home, however, it's your's to do with as you please.


Bronze Member
Username: Blueindian

Post Number: 12
Registered: Jan-16
Thanks for your quick and easy to understand explanation. I very much appreciate it.

Gold Member
Username: Magfan


Post Number: 3301
Registered: Oct-07
A 'hybrid' category, but still STEREO is the 2.1 system. I see more preamps every day with that configuration.

These are capable of running, in addition to a Pair of speakers, a SUBWOOFER. Those persons running smaller main speakers sometimes feel the need to augment the lower octave(s) with a subwoofer. That is the 'point' 1.
Other than that, Jan puts it in reasonable perspective; I've been running 2 channel for roughly 4 decades and don't wish for OR have the room for additional complications. It is difficult to find HT gear which will run my speakers, too.

So, I've spent my budget on MORE stereo rather than the same amount of $$$ on LESS 5.1 / 7.1 or 9.1

The ONE advantage of HT is the ability to run multiple Zones. Main unit in the TV / Listening room with music speakers on the outside or in another room of the house. This is more complicated to do with a simple stereo. Multi-Zone HT gear runs up the $$$.

Bronze Member
Username: Blueindian

Post Number: 13
Registered: Jan-16
I have a Yamaha RX570 receiver. It is used with two spearers but is also connected to a Subwoofer. How do I know if is a 2.1 system?

Platinum Member
Username: Jan_b_vigne

Dallas, TX

Post Number: 18173
Registered: May-04

"The ONE advantage of HT is the ability to run multiple Zones. Main unit in the TV / Listening room with music speakers on the outside or in another room of the house. This is more complicated to do with a simple stereo. Multi-Zone HT gear runs up the $$$."

Just to be clear, using a an AVR does not automatically give you multi-zone operation.

It doesn't even give you multi-area operation.

"Multi-zone" will need switching for audio and possibly video signals as discrete locations in the home. It will also require discrete amplification channels for the additional zones of operation. It means you can listen to/watch one source in this room (zone one) while another person listens to/watches another source in another location (zone two) totally independent of the zone one source.

Multi-area is much simpler and only requires control over the identical signal in various locations within the house. In other words, multi-area operation is using the same signal - not the discrete separate sources of multi-zone - in all locations and the only real "control" is limited to volume and on/off or possibly additional speakers. Multi-area operation may involved additional discrete channels for the second area but this is not a requirement.

Since these functions can be achieved by way of home automation systems without using a HT based receiver, an AVR is not required for multi-area or multi-zone operation.

Many manufacturers do however include multi-area and multi-zone operation in their upper price range HT receivers.


Platinum Member
Username: Jan_b_vigne

Dallas, TX

Post Number: 18174
Registered: May-04

"I have a Yamaha RX570 receiver. It is used with two spearers but is also connected to a Subwoofer. How do I know if is a 2.1 system?"

The stereo only systems featuring "2.1 operation" to which leo is referring will have "bass management" facilities built into the pre amp/receiver outputs and controls.

(Remember, a receiver is made up of three discrete components; a tuner/radio, a pre amp and a power amp all included on one chassis.)

A "2.1" system first means you would need to have available pre amp outputs which then feed signals to either internal or external channel(s) of amplification.

Your 570 has neither pre amp outputs nor power amp inputs. It predates the video functions which gave rise to the ".1" type of signal routing.

That's really all you need to know at this time. However, ...

A "5.1", "7.1" or 2.1" system will use a discrete pre amp output which is typically labelled as either a "LFE" or "low frequency effects" channel. LFE channels are thus routed directly to a self-powered subwoofer by way of this output, or to multiple powered subwoofers in some more sophisticated systems.

This discrete low frequency effects circuitry allows the user to set a high and low pass filter point at the pre amp which thereby adjusts the output of appropriate music/sound effects frequencies to the correct channels of amplification.

In other words, if you had a 2.1 system, there would be controls on your pre amp/receiver which would allow you to set a LFE filter point at, say, 40Hz. With that setting, frequencies beneath 40Hz would be directed towards the LFE output and sent directly to the powered subwoofer(s).

All frequencies above 40Hz would be sent to the power amplifier channels driving the "main/front" speakers.

(Keep in mind such filters are not of the "brickwall" variety and they have a gradual roll in/roll out action on either side of the selected frequency. This gradual filter action is normally about 12dB per octave though it may vary in its effect depending on the design of the circuit.

If, therefore, you set the filter to take effect at that 40Hz frequency, the main speakers would still be producing some bass content beneath 40Hz and the subwoofer would still be producing some frequencies above 40Hz. In the real world and not some idealized version of reality, this means your main speakers would still be required to reproduce some signals occurring beneath 40 Hz which also show up at the subwoofer and some frequencies above 40Hz would also be reproduced by the sub and your main speakers [in diminishing amounts on either side of the selected frequency].

Both "sides" would simply be "rolled" in or out according to your setting and the "action" of the filter network. Your selection of a frequency for this action would be described as your "knee" frequency or the point where, on either side of the 40 Hz frequency, signals are gradually adjusted in or out of the signal path.

However, this overlapping of frequencies between two speakers and your subwoofer can, in the worst cases, mean there is worse sound quality rather than higher sound quality through the lowest frequencies.

You really need to understand exactly how to manage bass when dealing with a "bass management system".

There's a lot of repetition in those last few sentences, I hope their intent is clear to you.)

LFE type bass management also allows the user to set a discrete level adjustment for the pre amp output running to the subwooofer(s). This provides the ability to as smoothly as possible created a seamless division between the main speaker output and that of the subwoofer(s) when used correctly ... and all too often a total mess when it is mishandled.

Since the main speakers are no longer being asked to provide full frequency range response with a properly adjusted ".1" system, their job, and that of the amplification channels, is eased a bit and their distortion products are minimized by having the lowest octaves handed off to (supposedly) a powered subwoofer better equipped to handle low(er) frequency content.

Since there are wiring set ups which allow most of the same controls to be implemented at the powered subwoofer itself, the advantages of a bass management system via ".1" control are somewhat unnecessary in your case.

If you are using a true "subwoofer", it should provide for level adjustment of the bass frequencies independent from the level of the main speakers. It should also allow for a filter setting which acts in much the same fashion as the bass management functions of the ".1" controls.

You don't say what your speakers and subwoofer are as far as brand or model. It's not that important other than there did exist at the time your receiver was being sold a product termed a "superwoofer".

And, actually, that term is very inappropriate for what the device actually achieves.

It is a passive woofer (no built in amplification) in a separate box/enclosure which lacks any form of amplification or controls intended solely for managing bass frequencies.

In other words, it lacks any controls for filtering out higher frequencies from reaching the (low frequency) driver or lower frequencies from arriving at the main speakers. Nor does it have any means to adjust the level of the low frequency system other than the main volume control on the pre amp/receiver.

It (a "superwoofer") is, in reality, simply another low frequency speaker which can be added to the already existing two channel speaker system. In most systems this was done to supplement the bass extension of small "bookshelf sized" or standmounted speakers and was not used with larger, floor standing full range speakers.

I've yet to hear a superwoofer that was worth adding to the system since its "bass management" systems were totally lacking.

They can add more thump to the bass in some cases but, if you judge your system's quality merely on the amount of bass thump it can put out, then you probably don't really care about anything else. Quantity supercedes quality in such cases.

If you are using a proper powered "subwoofer" and not just another box with a driver in it, then you have essentially all the real world control of a ".1" system placed at the subwooofer rather than at the pre amp/receiver.

There are a few small niggles in that sentence but, basically, that is all you should need to know at this time.

If you decide to move to a "real" AV receiver with bass management circuits included, then we can discuss the advantages it might present in a properly set up home theater system.

Until then, enjoy your system and don't lose any sleep over any lack of ".1" circuits.

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